Blessings, Michelle

Finishing up her final semester at seminary, this former news reporter looks forward to begin full-time Christian ministry in the Anglican tradition.

My Photo
Location: Wilmore, Kentucky, United States

What you see is what you get.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Future of Christianity

Last night Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom, spoke at Asbury about the future of global Christianity. Really fascinating stuff.

The gist of his talk (and I imagine his book... haven't read it yet) is that Christianity in the West (particularly Europe) is at death's door while Christianity in the Global South (South America, southeast Asia, Africa) is spreading like wildfire.

Some of Jenkins' explanations for Biblical Christianity's appeal in Africa is that their culture is so similar to the culture of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. Famine, drought, poverty, life in the fields, working with animals, tribal fighting, etc.

In comparison, in the West, when we say the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," we aren't usually seriously worrying that we will have enough food for today. When we read about "springs of living water," we miss the impact of those words to someone who had to walk for miles to get to a well.

Many in the Global South perfectly relate to the impoverished people of Jesus' parables. Let's face it: we don't; not in a literal sense.

He said, "When you read the Bible with hungry eyes, you realize how much of it is about food."

Imagine how The Feeding of the 5,000 would sound to someone who can't feed their children for days or weeks at a time. Wow.

It just makes me realize how much my cultural context shapes the way I read and interpret the Bible. Think how much people whose cultures and lives are nearer to that of the people in the Bible have to teach us.

He quoted an African writer (I didn't catch the name) who wrote:

Those cultures that are far removed from Biblical cultures run the risk of reading the Bible as fiction.


Some other interesting highlights from his talk:

- Thirty percent of the world's Christians live in: Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines.

- Given current projections, by 2050 the largest Christian countries in the world will be: the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, the Congo, Ethiopia, China and the Philippines (not a comprehensive list and not in order). But note: no European countries on the list.

- In London, 40 percent of those in church on Sunday are African or of African descent. (Think about that... "blacks" make up less than 15 percent of London's population.)

That last statistic reminds me of an article I read recently about religious practice in the United States. Guess which group of people pray most often? Black protestants.

One final note: He said that in 1640 when Protestants and Catholics were killing each other (and killing Jews) in Europe, St. Vincent de Paul commented that the church of the future would not be in Europe, but in South America, Africa and Asia.

It took awhile, but it appears he was right.

The new trend? Africans and Latin Americans are coming to the U.S. and Europe and starting churches that often become megachurches. The missionary path has been reversed.

A prayer from Uganda:

Keep us God from panic when crises and panics arise. Help us to know that though you do not always remove troubles from us you always accompany us through them.


Post a Comment

<< Home